Things to Do Now that Game of Thrones Season 3 has Finished: Part 1
by Henry Gorman
After a glorious ten blood-and-semen-drenched weeks, Game of Thrones has departed, leaving our television screens tragically bereft of bodily fluids for nine and a half months. I read the first four books of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire well before the first season of Game of Thrones came out, and I loved them, but never thought they would hit mainstream. I was shocked by how staggeringly popular and well-discussed the show became. But, looking back, I shouldn’t have been surprised. The show’s producers recognized something there that I didn’t.
Which is why they are all now rich as Lannisters
What I see now– and what I think they saw then– was that this show fulfills some basic unmet needs of America’s viewers. A nontrivial chunk of them possess a nontrivial chunk of wisdom. They know they live in a world where unforseen catastrophe follows unforseen catastrophe, noble intentions create more crises than they correct, and most people cannot easily be tossed into bins labeled “bad” and “good.” So they wanted entertainment that reflected this. They wanted that entertainment to be entertainment. Sex! Suspense! Sex! Action! Sex! Humor! Did I mention sex? Also, as the enormous success of Harry Potter, Star Wars, and The Lord of the Rings demonstrates, they have a huge appetite for the fantastic, although they seem ashamed to admit it.
Game of Thrones satisfies these hungers with a helping of classical tragedy lightly, sprinkled with caustic wit, served up under a great heaping spoonful of sex and topped with the best of all possible metaphorical cherries: dragons!
Raphael got entertainment, man
So, if you’re among the show’s viewers, you could recognize what you wanted and eaten of it voraciously. But alas, the buffet has closed for another year and your hunger has not been satisfied. And George R.R. Martin, unreliable devil that he is, might take another half-decade to spin another book. So here, I’ll begin compiling a list of things across media, genres, and brow-levels to feed that might help you feed. I won’t give it all away at once, because that wouldn’t be fun.
Recommendation #1: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
American fantasy is painfully uneven. There are but a few gems among the reams of cheap Tolkein imitators, lazy licensed novels, and stale sword-and-sorcery pulp tales. A Song of Ice and Fire is one of those gems. Even its weaker books 4 and 5 have more innovation and thematic depth than most of the work on the market.
Brandon Sanderson’s work is another genre high point, for similar reasons. Sanderson is probably most famous for cutting the Gordian Knot that was The Wheel of Time, somehow bringing the dozens of plotlines which had been proliferating hydra-like over the series’s ten books to a close in three. But he truly shines in his own original work. Like Martin, Sanderson is willing to respect the wisdom and intelligence of his audience. His “good” characters conflict about ideology and methods, his evil ones often have good reason for their behavior. The Mistborn trilogy is highly self-aware and deconstructs the roles of prophecies, chosen heroes, and Sauron-like omnipotent fantasy villains much as A Song of Ice and Fire deconstructed ideas about medieval chivalry and honorable warfare.
He’s also a hell of an entertainer. His books are much lighter on tits than Martin’s are, but their approach to action is vibrant and cinematic. Sanderson is no great prose stylist, but his work offers a feast for the visual imagination. His plots also move with a propulsion that matches Martin at his best, full of bracing thrills and sadistic twists. And he’s mastered a trick that Martin never has: closure.
In the next installment, I’ll take you off the page and onto the small screens of your laptops for more suggestions.